INTERVIEW: JUSTINE GILLILAND
ROLE: CHIEF EXECUTIVE
ORGANISATION: VENTURE TARANAKI
WEB: WWW.VENTURE.ORG.NZ


Who is Your Organisation?

Venture Taranaki is the regional development agency for Taranaki, responsible for enterprise and entrepreneurship ecosystem support, sector development, and regional promotion. We aim to enable resilient enterprises creating meaningful, well-paid jobs.

Our work supports the wellbeing of the people of Taranaki, and our environment. This is achieved through having resilient economies, resilient enterprises, and resilient communities.

What are the high-level goals of your organisation in relation to supporting entrepreneurship and innovation?

We aim to help build resilient enterprises creating meaningful, well-paid jobs, through having entrepreneurial mindsets and a focus on innovation and agility.

The purpose and goals of Venture Taranaki are also driven by the two long-term regional development strategies for Taranaki (Tapuae Roa and Taranaki 2050 Roadmap). After the recent integration and consolidation of these two strategies, Taranaki has a clear strategic framework to accelerate towards our shared vision as a region as we transition to a low-emissions future. Actions plans within this strategic framework outline the ways in which we aim to support enterprise, entrepreneurship, and innovation in Taranaki, to create smart connected communities and enterprises. This led to the inception of PowerUp, which is focused on growing capability, confidence and enterprises within the region.

What were some of the key programmes or initiatives run in 2021 in relation to supporting entrepreneurship and innovation?

Critical to the long-term sustainable and equitable prosperity of Taranaki, PowerUp is our key initiative to support entrepreneurship and innovation in Taranaki. Launched last year, and now into its second year, PowerUp helps to build smart and connected communities and enterprises by ‘powering-up’ our entrepreneurship and innovation ecosystem, so that ideas, entrepreneurship, and innovation can
continue to thrive in Taranaki.

PowerUp is a range of support services and activity focused on fostering and nurturing the entrepreneurship and innovation ecosystem in Taranaki, across the idea-to-maturity lifecycle of enterprises.

Taranaki enterprises, ideas, and individuals are supported and enabled as PowerUp connects them with a range of new and existing services and opportunities, helping to grow capability, confidence and entrepreneurship. PowerUp also works to grow and strengthen the ecosystem itself through support, partnerships, sponsorships and connections, shining a light on what the ecosystem has to offer.

PowerUp does this by focusing on three dimensions: Grow, Connect, and Tell, demonstrated in 2021 through the successful PowerUp masterclasses, Co.STARTERS delivery, ideas competition (effectively a mini accelerator ending in a pitch night where the winner walks away with $10,000), storytelling including our innovation nation partnership with NZ Entrepreneur, as well as the popular PowerUp Podcast series.

What have been some of the highlight achievements or moments that stand out for you and your team this year?

The inaugural year of PowerUp was very successful, with a wide range of Taranaki entrepreneurs showcased, insights and journeys shared, masterclasses run, and an oversubscribed ideas competition, with a finals night that showcased the depth of talent and ingenuity we have in Taranaki. The ultimate winner of the 2021 PowerUp ideas competition, Sol+Sea, has now gone on to officially launch their enterprise. The uptake and success of the first year of PowerUp is due to the dedication and hard work from the Venture Taranaki team.

It’s also been fantastic to see the shift in our budding entrepreneurs as they shift from thinking about their product or idea to thinking about their business proposition and their customer, understanding how to articulate their value proposition and how to build a successful, sustainable enterprise with great potential.

Given the renewed challenges and disruptions posed by COVID this year, what effect (if any) has this had on the entrepreneurial spirit and/or output of your local entrepreneurs in relation to innovation?

Since COVID, we have seen an increase in client demand for expansion or strengthening of their R&D and growth strategies. The entrepreneurial spirit appears to be alive and well, with numerous talented individuals seeing the opportunities, rather than just the challenges, and pursuing those either through the development of a new start-up or an innovative shift for some of our existing enterprises. The demand for startup support from Venture Taranaki and others such as StartUp Taranaki is extremely high, and we’re working to nurture and foster those ideas into enterprises as we speak.

Are there any local businesses or entrepreneurs that stand out for you in terms of addressing innovation challenges or showing exceptional entrepreneurial spirit in 2021?

Our five finalists in the PowerUp ideas competition are great examples of exceptional entrepreneurial spirit. Their dedication and commitment is amazing and we have huge respect for their courage and focus. Sol + Sea, a planet friendly range of sunscreen and skincare have gone onto access further support from our partners Soda Inc., and have recently launched in market with initial response indicating they have a successful business on their hands. Our WITT People’s Choice winners, Nanobubble continue to progress having joined Sprout’s Agritech programme following the progress they made during the PowerUp ideas competition. Each and every one of the finalists continues to work on their proposition.

Outside of the PowerUp ideas competition, the region has plenty of entrepreneurs who display exceptional entrepreneurial spirit, some of which are currently showcased in Innovation Nation. Others include Three Sisters Brewery who continue to blaze their way through the boutique beer market and are growing rapidly; another is TrackIt who deliver a software system that better enables the logistics management of people and materials to customers around the globe. No matter what sector you look at in the region, you’ll find entrepreneurial activity and spirit alive and well.


Innovation Nation is a series celebrating stories of innovation and entrepreneurship from around New Zealand.

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